Friday, October 22, 2010

The name's ASIO, and we need you!

EVER dreamt of ordering a martini, shaken not stirred? Well, ASIO might be dreaming of you.
In the past 12 months the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has struggled to hire staff.


Spy chief David Irvine says it's difficult to hire spies off the street because so many of the skills of espionage need to be taught inside the building.

Parliament has now been handed the organisation's annual general report, and one of the concerns it raises is finding the right people to spy.

"ASIO did not reach its ambitious recruitment targets for the year,'' Mr Irvine said.

It left the organisation with a rare budget surplus.

In the public service, departments try to finish the year with little cash left over because the cash returns to consolidated revenue rather than staying with the organisation itself.

The agency spent $7.9 million on its intelligence development program in 2009-10.

New spies spend six months in internal training modules and another six months helping out with real work.

It's only after the initial year of education that ASIO confirms employment.

Terrorism remains the biggest of ASIO's worries.

In the latest financial year the agency cancelled eight Australian passports.

Details of why it took the step remain secret, but the reasons may be linked to fears of so-called "homegrown" terrorism, an increasing concern for western intelligence agencies.

"A number of Australians have been drawn to extremist figures in Yemen, including via the internet," the report says, referring to the nation where Osama bin-Laden has longstanding connections.

"Australian residents in Yemen have also participated in terrorism-related activity."

One of the continuing good news stories for ASIO is its business liaison unit (BLU).

Created in 2005, the unit aims to keep the private sector informed on security issues.

More than 200 reports are available through the BLU website and almost 800 subscribers have access to them.

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